Today: May 30, 2024

Andy Serkis On Going Ape

How rewarding is it to explore the same character over a trilogy of films?
One of the greatest challenges and one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done is play Caesar over the course of these three Planet Of The Apes movies. It is very rare as an actor that you get the opportunity to play a role from infancy through to mature adulthood, with such a great arc, and so many great twists and turns, and all the emotional deviations. So in these films we’ve gone from Caesar the infant, to being a teenager, to being rejected by the human beings he was brought up with, through to going into a facility and learning to become an ape. Then he becomes a leader of a society. And now here we find him desperately struggling to keep his species alive. An event happens at the beginning of the film that pitches him into a journey of revenge. I could not have had a better opportunity as an actor to explore so many variations in the part of one character.

Caesar is really struggling with an internal conflict in this film; his natural compassion and leadership qualities are set against his desire for revenge…
The default Caesar is an empathetic character who was brought up with humans and therefore has the knowledge and understanding and ability to feel love and compassion towards them. But the thing that happens at the beginning of this movie is so horrific that it pitches him into this hatred that he didn’t feel he was capable of feeling. He begins to understand Koba, who was the ape that started the revolution and who had hatred, and starts to understand what that hatred means. And throughout all of that he was evolving physically, mentally and linguistically. So it was a very complex range of things to try and uncover and to play.

The film is full of dramatic moments and nuance, but it’s also a war movie. How much did you enjoy that side of the filmmaking? It’s a bit like the golden age of the war movies from the 1950s and 60s…
That was an amazing thing. When Matt Reeves, the director, first sat me down and pitched the movie a couple of years ago, before we even had a script, he explained that it was like a cross between The Bridge On The River Kwai and a biblical, Moses-type of story. There are elements of mythic Western, and of Clint Eastwood films. It was so great to play this character on a huge canvas like that, and yet also to have those moments of intimacy.

Has the performance-capture technology shifted much over the years you’ve been playing Caesar and, if so, how does that aid your performance?
The actual technology has not changed hugely. We are still wearing head-mounted cameras and are still wearing suits with markers on them, and electronics strapped to our backs. What has changed is the skillset in Weta, the digital effects company, and their ability to translate our performances and to honour the actors’ work to a higher degree with each new film. So the software through which they are creating the rendering makes every single choice you have created as an actor with the director much more readable by the audience.

Can you think of any behind-the-scenes moments that really standout?
There is a particular scene that I had a horrendous time with – that required a real suspension of disbelief. There is a scene where I find a human being who is dying. And I was wearing a lot of weights as Caesar to make him feel much more held down and buried under the weight of what he was going through. And when I crouched down beside this dying man – it was minus-degree conditions, in the snow – the other actor was giving an amazing performance. But I found myself in quite an uncomfortable position when I realised that his hand was stuck between a rucksack and rock and it went right up in between my legs as I crouched down. He went full into his performance with all this emotion and I couldn’t get out of that position. So that was a huge moment of having to suspend my disbelief. He was looking at me like, ‘Why do look as though you are sucking a lemon.’ And I was thinking, ‘You’re giving a great performance and I can’t respond because you hands are clasped between my legs.’


Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email:

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